Harmon’s Histories: On haps, mishaps, felonious dogs and lonely bachelors

Jim Harmon is a longtime Missoula news broadcaster, now retired, who writes a weekly history column for Missoula Current. You can contact Jim at harmonshistories@gmail.com.

“Miss Belle Coleman is suffering from a sprained ankle.”

It’s tough getting around with a sprained ankle. I hope she improves quickly. Of course, we’ll never know.

The one line, published in the Thompson Falls Weekly Montanian, was pretty much it – no follow-up that we could find – and it’s unlikely she’s still around to ask.

Miss Coleman’s injury was the lead item October 13, 1894 in the paper’s local news section under the headline, “Haps and Mishaps of the Week.”

We also learned that Mrs. Grant was finally “able to be around again,” but that William Hines wasn’t so fortunate. The well-known teamster “was kicked by a horse and in consequence thereof is compelled to take a layoff.”

After spending the better part of a decade reading old microfilmed newspapers, my head is so filled with useless information that it’s time to unload some of that old baggage to make way for future acquisitions of useless information.

Let the unloading begin.

Missoula melons were selling for $1.50 to $4 each in Helena in the fall of 1870.

In 1886, Henry Buck of Stevensville displayed an apple measuring “twelve inches one way, and eleven inches the other way, and weighing ten an a half ounces.”

I feel better already. Let’s unload some more.

There was that 1887 notice to dog owners from Missoula’s Town Marshal, E. A. Kenney. “According to the dog ordinance of Missoula, all owners must pay a $3 tax on each dog on or before the 15th of November, or it will be the duty of the city marshal to end their existence.”

Yikes!

Since we’re on the subject of dogs, there was that “shooting affair” in Corvallis in 1873 between a couple of the town’s leading citizens. “Cause: one man’s dog feloniously and with malice aforethought, appropriated to his own use a small piece of the other man’s bacon.” No one was hurt, either human or canine.

In 1867, the Deer Lodge Weekly Independent reported on a toast given at a fireman’s dinner. “The ladies – their eyes kindle the only flames which we cannot extinguish, and against which there is no insurance.”

The Townsend Forum newspaper of May 30, 1900 reminded locals that school would be out on Friday, and tutored the young ladies of town on the many attributes of the “popular” girl.

She “never keeps a man waiting with whom she has an engagement. Never writes to men except on very special occasions. Is never slangy, nor does she permit men to chaff her or wax familiar.”

Anyway, the newspaper continued that the popular girl “is polite to those inferior to herself in social partition. Is gentle towards children, animals and elderly people. Is never spiteful, seldom jealous, never stupid; will go out of her way to do kind things.”

Lastly, the popular girl “never talks dress to her best fellow, and allows him to do the courting and proposing.”

Newspapers also offered some insight on boys.

The May 2nd issue of the Weekly Missoulian in 1879 contained this bit of wisdom: “The boy who can look you square in the face and lie without flinching is sure to make his mark as a politician.”

Then there was that advertisement in one of the eastern newspapers, reprinted in the 1864 Montana Post, from a man looking to acquire a wife.

He declared, “I have lived solitary long enough.” He described himself to all the available young ladies as “not over 80 nor under 21 years of age (and) tolerably tame in disposition.”

The wife-seeking fellow professed to “have a whole suit of hair (and) a great regard for the Sabbath, and only drink when invited.”

As for any “predominating virtue,” he assured any possible bride-to-be that he “was forgiving (to) every enemy whom I deem it to be hazardous to handle.”

In conclusion, our old or young manly specimen declared, “Am a domestic animal and perfectly docile. … I say my prayers every night, mosquitoes permitting, and as to whether I snore in my sleep I want somebody to tell me.

“Money no object as I have never been troubled with any, and never expect to be.” No follow-up could be found on the success or failure of this humorous attempt at matrimony.

I have to say, I feel better. A little spring cleaning of the memory banks is quite refreshing!

Now I can get back to collecting more useless information.

Jim Harmon is a longtime Missoula news broadcaster, now retired, who writes a weekly history column for Missoula Current. You can contact Jim at harmonshistories@gmail.com.